Innovation: the interface of culture and technology

Senior Vice-President Human Resources Minna Tornikoski and Technology Director Jaakko Ala-Paavola of Etteplan talk about how innovation makes an impact.

Etteplan innovates in cooperation with the customer. That is why we can create solutions that match our customers’ needs and move whole sectors forward.

How do innovations happen, and what kind of culture do they need to support them?

Jaakko: “An innovation is any invention which solves an identified problem. It also needs to have commercial potential. Etteplan’s innovations often arise as part of our work with customers. We come across and solve companies’ challenges in our work and try to identify common, repetitive traits in them. We innovate solutions that meet several companies’ needs.”

Minna: “Innovation requires a culture that facilitates experimentation and encounters between people. That culture should also support learning and tolerate errors. The drivers of innovation at Etteplan are teamwork, a desire to experiment and a passion for problem solving and testing new technologies. We often create solutions when working with a customer.”

Jaakko: “Our strengths also include our industry expertise and design capabilities in several sectors. In a single innovation we can combine our knowledge from different fields and apply the solution to many different sectors.”

Give us an example of an innovation created on the Etteplan drawing board

Jaakko: “One good example is our internal AVG development project, which we use to support machine manufacturers’ transition to autonomous operations. Our solutions which use things like artificial intelligence, machine learning and intelligent data transfer make existing machines smart in an easy and fast way. The benefits are significant: for instance in mining environment workers can switch from the depths of mine tunnels to clean indoor work, and today even to remote work. This improves physical occupational safety and enables back-up arrangements for events like the pandemic.”

What are innovation ecosystems and what are the benefits of them?

Jaakko: “Systems are becoming more and more complicated and interdependent. Nobody can manage whole systems alone any more: cooperation and ecosystems are vital. A good example here is 5G. Launching it required technology suppliers, operators and integrators, the latter of which was Etteplan’s role in this particular ecosystem.”

Minna: “Innovations no longer occur in secret back rooms: they are created through open sharing. Trust is essential.”

What kind of conditions do innovations require?

Minna: “The work itself is the best environment for innovation and development, and today’s technology means they can happen anywhere. That means we can build cross-sectoral teams with the best talent and find the best people for each project. When you combine remote work with good tools and a digital working culture, creating innovation is even faster. That also means we must continue to learn throughout our lives and stay abreast of technological change. We want to bravely try new things and introduce new types of tools and ways of working to people’s daily work. With organizationwide training we can scale those lessons up faster.”

Jaakko: “In many areas of engineering, lifelong learning is a necessity, not an empty phrase. In software, for example, many tools and platforms have changed in just five years. The courses we offer as an employer are one tool, but what is vitally important is a person’s own interest in self-development. We also try to support and encourage that.”

Minna: “I’d add that finding capable, qualified employees is a challenge in many countries Etteplan operates in. Constantly keeping professional abilities up to date and a workforce that is less dependent on specific locations are solutions to this problem. Increasing diversity is also important in our sector, and this is a challenge for the whole society.”

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